YOU don’t hear the phrase “glass ceiling” so much any more. Perhaps that’s because women have sent it shattering to the floor as they’ve climbed into the boardrooms of Britain’s biggest businesses.

Or may be that’s because it’s become almost invisible – still a barrier but a subtle one that’s difficult to define.

Of course, we could have just got bored of talking about it and hoped, as with most sexist bullies, that neglect might make it go away.

Jo Haigh, a successful company director and author of Tales From The Glass Ceiling (Piatkus, £12.99) is adamant that it still exists.

“In many ways, I tink it has become harder for women to succeed in their career of choice,” she says.

“Just becuase we have been offered more opportunities doesn’t mean we are able, or even desire, to seize the chances in the workplace given the multitude of other tasks women have to do at any one time.

“Many of us, for different reasons, are squashed against the glass ceiling, mustard keen and meticulous but mired down, conscientious but constrained, ambitions yet still operating with one arm tied behind our backs.”

Jo, a mum of three who has spent many years working in corporate finance, draws on her own experience and her many years mentoring and working with other women in business for her book, which offers advice relevant for all women at work, not just those who are aiming for the top.

She says: “Before writing the book, I questioned whether the glass ceiling really existed. By the end I was in no doubt that it does, even in this enlightened age.

“Sometimes, the glass ceiling is put there by bosses or colleagues, determined that women shall not pass. But the pressure being applied by women everywhere makes me confident it will soon be shattered.”

Indeed, she doesn’t paint an entirely bleak picture, pointing out that female executives are on the increase, up 180 per cent in the last 10 years.

She adds: “Although there are not nearly a representative number of women in FTSE 100 companies, it is worthwhile mentioning that 72 per cent of the companies in the top 50 have female directors, compared with 44 per cent of those in the bottom fifty”

The truth is, however, that only five per cent of all directors in the UK’s FTSE 100 companies are female and 45 per cent of those top businesses have all-male boards.

So what is stopping women from reaching that boardroom? According to Jo, women might be to blame themselves.

“We often exclude ourselves from many opportunities by avoiding vital after-hours socialising, either from a lack of desire or more often, from a lack of time due to family pressures.

“In my experience, women are often reticent about being seen to be overtly ambitious. Many of our male colleagues have no such qualms and are first in the queue when putting a hand up for an opportunity.”

She doesn’t shy away from stressing, however, that discrimination does exist and is the biggest culprit.

Here, she shares her Discrimination Survival Guide. For more tips, buy the book.

Jo suggests the following steps:

  • “Ignore it. Sometimes it’s the best approach even if it smacks of defeatism. It’s difficult to lobby for cultural change and achieve business success at the same time. Choose what’s most important to you at the time.”
  • “Don’t be shy about your skills and achievements. Send emails to relevant bosses if you have pulled off a commercial coup. Keeping quiet until someone notices is a risky policy to pursue.”
  • “Don’t be negative about things you perceive as weaknesses. Flexible working hours and a family are not weaknesses so don’t apologise for them.”
  • “Be sure you know how much you are worth. Women are notorious for undervaluing themselves. Be prepared to negotiate for highter wages and do it in a positive way, avoiding comparisons with colleagues.”
  • “Don’t get mad, get even. You may have to wait for the right moment but usually the opportunity for revenge comes along eventually, preferably when your emotions have returned to an even keel. Don't be afriad to take your chances.”
  • “Question how much you want the job. Don’t be afraid to look elsewhere for work if your confidence is being seriously eroded.”
  • “Use peer support. It’s good to talk, especially for women, and the process of informally sharing information in cases that involve sexism can provide a necessary valve in a high-pressure situation.”
  • “Only fight battles you can win. Systemic sexism will be hard to overturn, no matter how righteous the cause.”
  • “Talk informally with your boss if you suspect sexism is playing a part in the office. Offer solutions rather than endless complaints.”
  • “Take expert advice. It may cost you plenty of money but it’s better to make an informed decision than a stab in the dark.”
  • “Consult the equal opportunities commission for advice.”
  • “Learn your lessons well. Become a pioneer against discrimination in your own corporate practices and, when you become a boss, stamp it out.”